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Letter to Editor: All we want is truth over Town Centre says Labour councillor

News / Fri 23rd Dec 2022 at 06:58am



Dear Editor, One thing I have learnt in politics is not to extend the truth, so it becomes a lie.

Over the last few months the local Tories have gone into overdrive in promoting how everything is wonderful .

They are taking ownership on anything and everything good including the purchase of Occasio house in the town centre.

The plain truth is this building was secured over two years ago but due to the Tories causing chaos with the contract this has been delayed until now.

This building needs demolishing and plans had been put in place to create new council homes and key worker accommodation.

This was the agreed plan two years ago.

We left them with the plan ,which they ignored not because it was a bad plan, but it was because it was a Labour plan.

They claim the government will fund all this regeneration but just like the lie about PAH we’re still waiting and wondering.

We’re told early next year the town centre, bus station ,market square will all be regenerated.

Therefore, by Spring, work will commence in these areas. Is this the truth or another Tory lie?

All we really know is a private developer will at some point build private homes in the town centre.

How much of this will be affordable or social housing?

All Harlow wants is an honest conversation about what is achievable and what is not.

Stop the Tory spin,  we all know Harlow is being surrounded by new development and the local infrastructure is being left behind.

I welcome that the decision and purchase of Occasio house bought 2 years ago has been finally announced.

Just like the Harvey Centre, now we own it what are we going to do with it to make the difference for Harlow.

None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the sound financial management over the 10 years which Labour were in control of the council.  Sadly the Conservative’s have already shown they lack this.

My concern about the current Tory leadership is, just like PAH, their truth is sadly just another set of lies.

Tony Durcan.
Labour Councillor

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22 Comments for Letter to Editor: All we want is truth over Town Centre says Labour councillor:

Tom
2022-12-23 07:29:17

What is Mr Durcan smoking? He has the temerity to criticise the current administration as if he were In position of some moral authority. Let nobody be deceived, it was Mr Durcan who was the Portfolio holder for regeneration under the former abject Labour administration, who over a decade showed that with regards to regeneration they were inept, incompetent and impotent. They did nothing. And here speaks the man who led who bears that shameful record. It is laughable.

Tony Durcan
2022-12-23 09:37:54

Kao enterprise park Labour Science park Labour Enterprise hub Labour Rugby club Labour Clifton hatch Labour Potters street/prentice place Labour Three hills Estate Labour Paddling pools Labour Town park rejuvenation Labour Wild flower planting Labour 4 new developments of new council houses built by Labour. Let have some honesty and truth. We’re is the new PAH We’re is the new world beating cycle track. We’re are the hundreds of promised council homes We’re are the repairs to council tenants roofs. We’re is the infrastructure.

Macdonald Janet
2022-12-23 10:17:54

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you stopped moaning about others and worked together to make Harlow great again!!!

Theman
2022-12-23 10:21:21

As a mere resident I am somewhat surprised that building that was built in 2001 is now earmarked for demolition. Seems a lot of money and effort has been wasted. Also how is it councils can find millions for these development projects, yet can’t find the money to maintain the council houses/keep the pavements and streets in good repair/ keep the town tidy/ collect waste on time and maintain the green spaces.

Tom
2022-12-23 10:33:14

Excuse me Mr Durcan and thanks. You have just confirmed my point. Your list does not include any regeneration work whatsoever in the Town Centre. As I said, you as Head of Regeneration achieved nothing in the Town Centre in almost a decade. Case closed, wouldn’t you agree? As for roof repairs, are you seriously suggesting these outstandings all occurred in the past 18 months? You are now talking complete nonsense. Best get back in your box.

Nicholas Taylor
2022-12-23 10:51:58

The fact is Janet there is very little difference between the two Parties in Harlow when it comes to the "regeneration" of the town centre and the town as a whole but both are of course keen to knock the other. We in the Harlow Alliance Party are happy to give credit where credit is due and agree with Cllr Durcan that Labour did many good things when in power, which he is right to point out in some cases the Tories are trying to take credit for. However they also took some terrible decisions as well, which includes the one that will see thousands of homes built on Harlow's borders, which ironically Cllr Durcan appears to be showing concern about! The Tories have made a bold decision to go ahead with buying up property in the Town, we now await further details of what they are going to do with them and the money they are waiting for from the Government. However we do not agree with spending about £8 million (?) on building a new bus station, which will do nothing to attract new visitors to the town, improvements to the the existing station could be done far cheaper and the money spent elsewhere.

Colin
2022-12-23 10:52:57

These new developments do nothing for the people of Harlow & it's very doubtful that they will draw people from outside of Harlow to shop in or even visit Harlow with it's grid locked roads. The money would have been better spent on social housing & building community resilience

Kim Oconnor
2022-12-23 11:06:23

Dear oh dear, Tony durcan. How many council s houses did you build, by your last term in. Oh wait a minute, I hear 20,,,, are you for real. Repairs never done on your watch either, I'm a cyclists have been for years, you never fixed cycle track s. , as for placing sites close to houses, you lot done that, rugby club, all we hear is noise and music blurring out. So who telling lies. You never put people first either. This lot we have now don't see us, or hear us. People before profit. The waiting list for council houses was just as bad on your watch, as it still is on this watch. Repairs did not get done on your watch. The same as this watch. Your all the same, you all talk the talk, but at end of day, it's greed and profit that wins. Your both as bad as one another, Labour never say where money s coming from,, for some reason. The green party, listen to people, we are all Local people,, we go listening to needs and wants, of the people of our town. Something both party s are lacking, very badly lacking. I just hope that people now know that we need to get back to local s first and foremost, and that they now know, that it's no different under your watch or there watch. There's more than two party's, and I think people are waking up to that.

Marie
2022-12-23 12:25:31

I do think Cllr Durcan is a pretty decent and sincere person. However, he and his Labour colleagues are out of their depth as far as Town Centre regeneration is concerned. Their record in this regard is hardly noteworthy. Just look at the abandoned state of Market Square, Post Office Walk and around Terminus House. There are plenty of examples of dynamic local authorities across England that have undertaken successful town centre regeneration projects. It seems that during their 10 years in administration in Harlow that it never occurred to them to look outside. They continue to push an ideological hard left agenda of their mentor Jeremy Corbyn on most issues that have nothing to do with actually running Harlow District Council and its residents. It is pleasing to see that officially they are now supporting the efforts of the new Conservative administration to deliver the promised and long overdue regeneration programme. They had ample chances to do this, but failed. This is no time for sour grapes. Cllr Durcan and his colleagues should come clean and acknowledge their limitations. I believe he has the integrity to recognise this to be true.

adam
2022-12-23 12:41:03

This is the entire problem politicians playing politics and point scoring while the town gets worse. How about we just find 40 indpendents who care about Harlow next election. It is obvious the politicians care only about party, point scoring and politics

Matt
2022-12-23 12:49:29

Lets all be grown ups here and say, all parties in Harlow have good and bad points, and have done good and bad things. And let's refocus on the big achievement of buying the Harvey Centre and Occasio House. Effectively the council have gone from powerless, to in charge with these properties. If a private developer got hold of these, the council could not have stopped them from doing what they want with it (ie think building tower blocks of private flats). Now they are in charge and can develop the areas to what the town actually needs. Take this next comment with a pinch of salt, but theoretically if the council could get a developer on board to build, then they could flatten the Harvey Centre, Playhouse and Occasio House. Rebuilding a vast leisure complex across all plots comprising of modern shopping centre, with attached larger theatre, purpose built music venue and council flats above. A leisure venue such as this would bring people to Harlow. My point is the council can do this now if they wish as they own the land, they couldn't before.

James
2022-12-23 13:02:11

Matt has recognised the key point fundamental to regeneration: ownership of land. Although the previous Labour administration might have understood this, they did nothing concrete to change the situation. The new administration has taken the bull by the horns and is now a major stakeholder giving it substantial leverage in future negotiations with prospective development partners to transform the Town Centre along the lines Matt indicates, making it a veritable destination for residents and visitors. This will boost the local economy and provide the Council with a permanent share of rental revenue for investment in the town, reducing reliance on Council Tax. These revenues had previously gone to private landlords who owned the sites. Other towns have done this successfully. It can be done; it will be done.

Michael Hardware
2022-12-23 13:14:28

Instead of celebrating the successes for this town in recent weeks, as usual, the councillor being very negative. Perhaps sour grapes as it represents significant progess which eluded him for the last 10 years when he was the cabinet member for, oh yes, regeneration. There is no 'spin' on this, simply reporting the facts: the Occasia House deal was done last week (not two years ago as he claims) and the Harvey centre deal was sealed last week by this administration after six months of hard work. Both, I would add, with cross party agreement. The councillor asks what are we going to do with them? An obvious and important question, and one which he surprisingly did not ask at the council meetings when these purchases were agreed. He is then critical of the development around Harlow and how infrastructure is being left behind - this is a deal his administration agreed back in 2017, so he is actually criticising himself and his colleagues. We are left with what was not a good deal and have to try and make it good for the residents of Harlow, not an easy task.

Nostradamus
2022-12-23 13:44:54

Neither Tory or Labour parties have a clue. They fail because they are driven by party political dogma and not by evidence. They signally fail to study what schemes and strategies have succeeded or failed elsewhere in the uk, Europe and across the world. That's not to say that many cllrs aren't good and well intentioned people but the problem is the party system, a point scoring and mud slinging mess, seems to blinker their perspectives. The last person that paid due regard to town design here was Sir Frederick Gibberd. The principles he laid down, built on the evidence that goes back to the beginning of the 2Oth century from the garden town movement remains solid and with the knowledge about changes that have occurred since, such as car ownership, ecological awareness and about Climate Change, those principles are currently at the leading edge of town development principles today but not in the UK. Towns reach a critical mass and beyond their design size begin to fail, this happens when the design spec is overloaded with regards to environment, housing, water management and transport. Neither party in backing hggt pfp has taken any account of these basic constraints and so the quality of life here looks unlikely to improve. Sir Fred's design of Harlow was almost a century ahead of it's time. Decentralised shopping, 15 minute sub community and shopping hubs with cycle and walking routes are considered to be the best town planning solutions today : in Harlow we had them from the beginning in what we called shopping hatches with community halls! The town was designed in this way because it removed the necessity of a massive single town centre retail centre: such centres created transport issues then and still do for different reasons: the fact remains that town centre retail malls or High Street are failing everywhere and will continue to fail. Yet as we see our Council thinking it can take over the Harvey Centre and do better than the experts who are so confident that the centre will continue to fail that they are getting out pdq and selling to the Council at a low price which they have further discounted by nearly a fifth of their asking price. Did the Cllrs not stop to look in the poke?

Tom
2022-12-24 09:50:54

Indeed, as David Forman correctly observes, the level of delusion is very sad.

Bruce Downey
2022-12-24 10:13:01

If you keep your comments short and to the point it might be read by the masses…. You know who you are-repeat offenders..

Colin
2022-12-24 10:17:25

As per my earlier comment why is everything focused on the Town Centre when Harlow is gridlocked at the best of times. As Nostradamous has pointed out the original plan was to have localised shopping & Community centres unfortunately local shopping cannot compete with the supermarkets & most of the local community centres have either been demolished or have been taken over by commercial enterprises charging high rental rates which small community groups can't afford Will the re development of the Town Centre help the homeless,those waiting to be housed,reduce poverty & deprivation,help mental health & the many other things people are suffering from which makes Harlow the 2nd worst town in Essex & the 20th in England

James
2022-12-24 10:55:50

Colin, with respect, I think you are mixing issues. It is not a case of either or. Town Centre regeneration was an express electoral pledge of the current Conservative administration. It is now fulfilling that pledge with Government funding allocated specifically for such purpose. Separately, it pledged to embark upon the biggest council house building programme in many years. If you read YH reports, it is also driving ahead with this: recent completions in Bushey Croft, acquisition of land at Staple Tye, announced builds in Arkwrights and Tye Green are some examples.

Lilian Compton
2022-12-24 20:56:21

Tony Duncan is on another planet. I have been a staunch Labour supporter, but they did zero for 10 years when in power and are now claiming they are responsible for the Tory visionary approach. Please be factual, not embellish and spin negatively.

Nicholas Taylor
2022-12-26 10:23:05

Both main Parties continue with the smoke and mirrors, as demonstrated by the two most recent comments from James and Lillian. So far the money obtained to "regenerate" the Town Centre was obtained when Labour was in power, whose plans for the centres future also included numerous tower blocks, a new bus station and some sort of square that it hopes will become a cultural centre. The housebuilding plans are similar to Labour's and the creation of HGGT which will see the Green Belt around Harlow decimated with the building of thousands of homes on it are supported by both Parties. What the Harlow Alliance Party are most critical of both of them is the lack of consultation with residents about what the Town Centre and indeed the whole town will look and feel like in 10 years time. Those of us already living here will be surrounded by thousands of very expensive homes, occupied by residents who do not pay anything to Harlow Council to regenerate places such as Osler House or support Pets Corner, the towns roads will be gridlocked, the hospital will be bursting at the seams, doctors and dental surgeries will stop taking new patients.

Kim Oconnor
2022-12-28 09:57:07

Spot on Nicholas.

Yasmin Gregory
2023-01-01 12:43:38

I think we all need to be mindful of the ability of the council to create distractions. It was very difficult to find actual facts of why Occasio House was left empty. If one of the reasons was the cladding used was found to be substandard/not fit for purpose following on from the Grenfell tragedy, the company who built Occasio House should be held responsible for either replacing the cladding so that it was habitable or to face a legal claim. I do not know why the purchase of the Harvey Centre was made before the funding had been received by Harlow Council. If the housing market is expected to decrease in 2023, does it not follow that commercial property will also begin slowing down and Harlow Council may have been able to negotiate the purchase at a lower price. With reference to the wonderful story boards and concepts that the council have been promoting, usually alongside a group of developers, I am more cautious. Until the ink is dry on the agreements from all parties, any project can fail and I am dubious as to when the new hospital will eventually be built if at all. Meanwhile, the current hospital is in dire need of repairs and our dedicated NHS workers are made to work in sub standard conditions AND pay to park at their workplace. Latton Priory Development is one to watch for 2023. There is a Q&A session on 5 January. I would suggest those residents who are concerned about the amount of private developments and, coupled with that the lack of social housing, attend the Q&A and any other consultation on this project which will have an impact on our traffic flow and pollution. If these developments must be built, schools, health care providers and shops for these developments should be built as a priority, not an after thought. I am waiting for more information on the cycle path improvements and wonder who was responsible for signing off Gilden Way which could have had a cycling lane to help Gilden Park/Churchgate Street residents actively travel to Harlow Town Station and the Town Centre. Full, not selective, consultation is needed for these projects for the residents of Harlow to muster some level of trust with the elected councillors. In the meantime, I would remind Your Harlow readers to make sure they are registered to vote in time for the next local elections in May. Happy New Year!

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